Valmiki Ramayana- Summary Of The Ramayana Story
Valmiki Ramayana is divided into seven Kandas or chapters. These are: Adi Kanda or Bal Kanda, Ayodhya Kanda, Aranya Kanda, Kishkindhya Kanda, Sundar Kanda, Lanka Kanda or Yuddha Kanda and Uttar Kanda. In these seven chapters, the life story of Rama is narrated chronologically.
Adi Kanda or Bal Kanda
Adi Kanda or Bal Kanda of Valmiki Ramayana describes Rama’s birth, childhood and marriage to Sita.
Rama’s Birth And Childhood
Dasharatha was the king of Koshala kingdom, his capital was in the city of Ayodhya. He had three queens: Kaushalya, Kaikeyi and Sumitra. Due to his long period of childlessness, King Dasharatha performed the Putra-Kamesti Yajna or Putresti Yajna for a son. Then Kaushalya gave birth to Rama, Kaikeyi gave birth to Bharata and Sumitra gave birth to twin sons, Lakshmana and Shatrughna. All of them (sons) were part of Lord Vishnu. Actually the birth of Lord Rama was the appearance of Vishnu. Vishnu took the form of a human being and incarnated in order to kill an oppressive demon king named Ravana. The four princes excelled in weaponry and science. Once the sage Vishwamitra attended the meeting of Dasharatha and prayed to the king for help in destroying the demons that were causing trouble in his Ashram (hermitage). He selected sixteen-year-old Rama for the job. Lakshmana went with his elder brother, Rama. Vishwamitra imparted special weapons training and various miraculous weapons training to Rama and Lakshmana. Rama and Lakshmana became strong in new education and weapons and killed all the demons that were causing trouble in the sage’s ashram.
Rama’s Marriage To Sita
Janaka was the king of Mithila at that time. One day while plowing, the king picked up a baby girl from a plow line. Overwhelmed with joy, the king nurtured the girl as a gift from God. He named her Sita. Because, in Sanskrit, the tillage line of the plow is called ‘Sita’. When Sita was ready for marriage, the king arranged for her marriage. Raja Janaka had a heavy bow which was gifted by Lord Shiva as a gift. The king bet that whoever could lift and break the bow, he would be accepted by his daughter, Sita. Sage Vishwamitra attended the meeting with Rama and Lakshmana. Only Rama was able to pass the test of lifting and breaking the bow. So, Sita got married to Rama. Not only that, Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatrughna were married to Urmila, Mandavi and Shrutakirti respectively. The wedding was celebrated as a grand ceremony in Mithila. The newlyweds then returned to Ayodhya.
The Ayodhya Kanda describes Rama’s preparations for the coronation and his exile for fourteen years.
Rama’s Preparation For The Coronation
Twelve years after the marriage of Rama and Sita, the old king Dasaratha expressed his desire to to pass on the throne to Rama. Everyone in the Koshal Assembly and the subjects of the kingdom supported his wish.
The Conspiracy Against Rama
On the eve of the ceremony, Kaikeyi’s jealousy was aroused by the conspiracy of Manthara, a cunning maidservant. Long ago, King Dasharatha promised to give two wishes to Kaikeyi, her first wish being that Rama should be sent into exile for fourteen years and the second that the throne should be passed to her son, Bharata. The old and desperate king agreed to grant Kaikeyi the two wishes he had promised to keep. Rama willingly and calmly obeyed his father’s orders.
Rama’s Exile For Fourteen Years
Rama went into exile for fourteen years.
Rama’s wife Sita and brother Lakshmana became his companions. When Rama tried to dissuade Sita, Sita replied, “The forest in which you will live is Ayodhya to me; but the Ayodhya you are not in is not Ayodhya to me, it’s hell with misery.” After the departure of Rama, King Dasharatha passed away due to grief over his son, Rama. Bharata was at his mother-in-law’s residence, Nandigram at the time of the incident. Hearing all this, Bharata immediately returned to Ayodhya. He hated the throne he found in his mother’s insidious conspiracy. He came to the forest to look for Rama. He requested Rama to return to Ayodhya and take over the throne. But in defiance of his father’s orders, Rama refused to return to Ayodhya before fourteen years had elapsed. Bharata then asked for Rama’s clogs. Returning to the kingdom, he placed the two clogs on the throne and began to rule in the name of Rama.
Aranya Kanda of Valmiki Ramayana tells the story of Rama’s life in Panchavati, the story of the abduction of Sita by Ravana and Jatayu’s effort to save her.
Rama, Sita And Lakshmana In Panchavati
Rama, Sita and Lakshmana traveled to the south. They built huts in Panchavati forest on the banks of Godavari river and began to live there. Then Ravana, an ardent devotee of Lord Siva, was the Asura (demon) king of Lanka. Ravana is also known as the writer of Shiva Tandava Stotram. One day Ravana’s sister Surpanakha met Rama and Lakshmana while traveling in that forest. Surpanakha failed to seduce Rama and Lakshmana in the guise of a beautiful lady. Then Surpanakha, blinded by anger, went to devour Sita but Lakshmana cut off Surpanakha’s nose and ears with a sword. On hearing this news, another demon brother of Surpankha, Khar, attacked Rama and Lakshmana. But Rama killed Khar.
Abduction Of Sita By Ravana
Marich drew Sita’s attention in the guise of a golden deer.
Upon hearing this news, Ravana planned to kidnap Sita to avenge his sister’s insult. He was assisted in this task by a magical monster named Marich. Marich drew Sita’s attention in the guise of a golden deer. Fascinated by the form of the deer, she sat down to pray to Rama for the deer. Rama went to catch the deer. In a while, she heard Rama screaming. In fact, the magician Marich imitated Rama’s voice and screamed. Frightened, Sita requested Lakshmana to go in search of Rama. Lakshmana repeatedly tried to convince Sita that Rama was invincible. But Sita did not listen to him. Eventually Lakshmana cut a (Lakshman Rekha) boundary around the cottage and forbade Sita to go beyond that boundary and went in search of Rama. Ravana was waiting for this opportunity. He came in the guise of a sage and begged Sita. Sita came out of the confines and went to beg him. The evil Ravana forcibly abducted Sita and took her in his chariot.
Jatayu’s Effort To Save Sita
Jatayu was seriously injured by Ravana.
A bird named Jatayu, a devotee of Rama, saw Sita abducted and went to rescue Sita, but it was seriously injured and fell to the ground by Ravana. Ravana abducted Sita and kept her under surveillance in a forest called Ashoka Kanan in Lanka under the care of a group of Cherries (demons). He wanted to marry Sita. But Sita, devoted to Rama, rejected the evil proposal with hatred. Meanwhile, Rama and Lakshmana got the news of the abduction of Sita from the dying Jatayu and immediately set out to rescue Sita. On the way, an old ascetic named Savari advised them to seek the help of Sugriva and Hanumana.
Kishkindha Kanda describes the reunion of Hanuman and Rama, the killing of the monkey king Vaali with Rama’s help, and the coronation of Sugriva, Vaali’s younger brother, in the monkey kingdom, Kishkindha.
The Killing Of Vaali
Rama and Lakshmana met Hanuman.
Rama and Lakshmana met Hanuman, the greatest monkey of all time and a follower of Sugriva. Sugriva was an candidate for the kingship who was exiled from Kishkindha. Rama formed an alliance with Sugriva. Rama and Sugriva plotted to kill Vaali. They decided that when Sugriva called Vaali to a duel, Rama would kill Vaali. As planned, Sugriva summoned Vaali to a battle and Rama shot him with an arrow from behind, as it was impossible to kill Vaali from the front. Then Vaali asked Rama why he (Rama) killed him (Vaali). Rama said in answer to his question that he (Vaali) unjustly deposed Sugriva and forcibly made his (Sugriva’s) wife Tara his queen. Then Vaali realized his injustice and died by thanking him (Rama) for dying at the hands of the noble Rama.
Sugriva’s Coronation And His Assistance For Rama
With the help of Rama, Sugriva killed his brother Vaali and ascended the throne of Kishkindha. In return for Rama’s help, Sugriva assisted Rama in the work of searching for Sita. Sugriva sent a team of monkeys around in search of Sita. North, East and West teams failed and returned. The southern party, led by Angad and Hanuman, finally got the news from a bird named Sampati that Ravana had taken Sita to Lanka and held her captive.
Sundar Kanda is the central part of the Valmiki Ramayana. This section deals with the detailed and explicit account of Hanuman’s expedition and arrival in Lanka, his meeting with Sita, and Hanuman’s efforts to release Sita.
Hanuman’s Expedition And Arrival In Lanka
On hearing the news of Sita from Sampati, Hanuman crossed the sea in a huge body and reached Lanka. Arriving in Lanka, he searched for Sita. He spied on Ravana’s palace so that he could get the information of Sita Mata.
Hanuman’s Meeting With Sita
He finally found Sita in Ashokban. Sita was teased by Ravana and Cheri for persuading her to marry. Hanuman gave Sita the ring and message of Sita. He wanted to take Sita back to Rama. But Sita did not agree. He said that Rama should come soon to avenge his humiliation by giving appropriate punishment to Ravana and save him.
Hanuman’s Efforts To Release Sita
Hanuman then wreaked havoc in Lanka and killed some of Ravana’s warriors. Then he was caught and appeared in front of Ravana. Standing in Ravana’s court, he very boldly advised Ravana to release Sita. But Ravana did not listen to his words and ordered to set fire to his tail. Hanuman then burned the whole of Lankapuri with the fire of his tail and returned to his waiting party. Excited, their party returned to Kishkindha and informed Rama about Sita.
Lanka Kanda Or Yuddha Kanda
This section contains the details of the battle of Rama and Ravana.
The Construction Of Ramsetu
On hearing the news of Sita from Hanuman, Rama and Lakshmana set out for the South Seas with the monkey army. Ravana’s repentant brother, Vibhishana joined them on the beach. The monkeys built a bridge over the sea. This bridge is known as Ramsetu. When the bridge was built, Rama entered Lanka with his army.
The Battle Of Rama And Ravana
Battle between Rama and Ravana
A long battle took place between Rama and Ravana in Lanka. According to the Ramayana story, during the battle between Rama and Ravana, Rama worshipped Bhadrakali (a form of Devi Durga or Adishakti) with 108 blue colored Padma (lotus flowers) in order to destroy Ravana’s power. Ravana was killed in the battle. Rama placed Vibhishana on the throne of Lanka.
Mrit Sanjivani Story
Keeping Drongiri mountain onto his palms, Hanuman flew back to Lanka.
When Rama was battling Ravana, his brother Lakshmana was seriously wounded. Rama then sent for Sushena who was a great physician and expert in ancient medical science. Sushena ordered Hanuman to fly to the Himalayas and bring him the Mrit Sanjivani plant so that he could revive Lakshmana. Sushena also told Hanuman that the plant grows in the Drongiri range of the Himalayas. Hanuman left immediately but when he arrived in the mountains, he was confused and did not know where the plant was. So he pulled the whole mountain out of the ground and keeping it onto his palms, he flew back to Lanka. Then the healing herb was picked and applied to Lakshmana. At last, Lakshmana was healed and filled with energy.
Sita’s Agni Pareeksha
Sita’s Agni Pareeksha (fiery test)
Rama met Sita. But Rama asked her to prove her purity by the great Agni Pareeksha (fiery test) since she had been living in the demon house for a long time. Sita entered the fire. Agnidev himself appeared and declared the sanctity of Sita to Rama. The episode of Agnipariksha is presented differently in Valmiki Ramayana and Tulsidasa Ramayana. However, the banishment period expired. Rama, Sita and Lakshmana returned to Ayodhya. Rama was crowned there.
This section also includes the birth of Rama and Sita’s sons Luv and Kush, their coronation and Rama’s departure from the earth. It is believed that this section of the story was later associated with the Valmiki Ramayana.
After returning to Ayodhya Rama celebrated Vijaya (victory) as he won the spiritual war. He became the king of Ayodhya and lived happily with Sita for a long time. Meanwhile, despite the ordeal, various rumors about Sita started spreading in Ayodhya. Disturbed by all these rumors, Rama sent Sita into exile.
The Birth of Luv-Kush
Sita and Luv-Kush at Valmiki’s Ashram
The child-bearing Sita took refuge in the ashram of sage Valmiki. There his twin sons Luv and Kush were born. Luv and Kush did not know about their ancestry. They accepted Valmiki’s discipleship.
Sita’s Patal Pravesh
Valmiki taught Ramayana Geet (songs) to Luv and Kush. In the meantime, when Rama arranged the Ashwamedha Yajna, Valmiki came to the Yajna site with Luv and Kush. Luv and Kush sang the melancholic song of Ramayana. Rama was saddened to hear the song of Sita’s banishment. Then Valmiki brought Sita in front of Rama. But when Rama asked Sita to re-examine him in front of everyone, the insulted Sita called out to Mother Earth. The soil was cracked. Goddess Dharitri got up and went to the underworld with Sita. Thus Sita Mata’s Patal Pravesh (entering into the earth) happened. Then Rama realized that Luv and Kush were actually his children.
Rama was one of the 10 Avatars of Lord Vishnu. When his Leela (divine performance) as an Avatar was completed, he left the reign in the hands of his two sons, immersed himself in the river Saryu and returned to Vaikuntha (abode of Param Brahma).
By Krishna Das